Environmental neurotoxicants and inflammasome activation in Parkinson's disease – A focus on the gut-brain axis

Aishwarya M. Johnson, Zhen Yi Andy Ou, Richard Gordon, Hariharan Saminathan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Inflammasomes are multi-protein complexes expressed in immune cells that function as intracellular sensors of environmental, metabolic and cellular stress. Inflammasome activation in the brain, has been shown to drive neuropathology and disease progression by multiple mechanisms, making it one of the most attractive therapeutic targets for disease modification in Parkinson's Disease (PD). Extensive inflammasome activation is evident in the brains of people with PD at the sites of dopaminergic degeneration and synuclein aggregation. While substantial progress has been made on validating inflammasome activation as a therapeutic target for PD, the mechanisms by which inflammasome activation is triggered and sustained over the disease course remain poorly understood. A growing body of evidence point to environmental and occupational chemical exposures as possible triggers of inflammasome activation in PD. The involvement of the gastrointestinal system and gut microbiota in PD pathophysiology is beginning to be elucidated, especially the profound link between gut dysbiosis and immune activation. While large cohort studies confirmed specific changes in the gut microbiota in PD patients compared to age-matched healthy controls, recent research suggest that synuclein pathology could be initiated in the gastrointestinal tract. In this review, we present a summarized perspective on current understanding on inflammasome activation and the gut-brain-axis link during PD pathophysiology. We discuss multiple environmental toxicants that are implicated as the etiological agents in causing idiopathic PD and their mechanistic underpinnings during neuroinflammatory events. We additionally present future directions that needs to address the research questions related to the gut-microbiome-brain mechanisms in PD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106113
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Chemical exposures
  • Gut-brain axis
  • Inflammasome activation
  • Inflammation
  • Microbiome
  • Neurotoxicants
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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